Mandsaur – Singing Glories of Yashodarman

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1893

Mandsaur is the headquarters town of the district bearing the same name in Madhya Pradesh. The town is located on the north bank of river Shivna. During the nineteenth century CE, the town was locally known as Dasor by the inhabitants of nearby villages as far as by the inhabitants of Indore. Fleet mentions the name Dasor was also found in sanads (or warrants) of vernacular languages however in the Persian documents the name was mentioned as Mandsor or Mandsaur. The local Brahmins of the town used the name Dashapura in their correspondences stating it was the correct Sanskrit name of the town. About the etymology of the name Dashapura, the locals say the name of the city was after King Dasharatha however, Fleet tells the true explanation stating that it was named as it was constituted after consolidating ten hamlets (Dasha + puras).1 The town became a great cultural and trade center during the early historical period as it is mentioned in many early period inscriptions as well as in Classical Sanskrit literature. The city gained a considerable reputation and a guild of silk weavers from Gujarat made their new abode here during the fourth-fifth century CE. In their inscription, the city is praised as below:

“this city (Mandsaur) which has gradually become a forehead ornament of the [lady] Earth, whose jewels are thousands of mountains the stones of which are sprinkled with drops of rut fluid dripped from the sloping creeks of elephants in musth, and whose ear dangles are thickets of trees bowed down with flowers, where the lakes adorned with blooming lotuses teem with ducks and twinkle as the water along their edges take on divers colors from the many flowers fallen from trees growing on the shore, and where the lakes also shine here and there with swans rouged by pollen falling from lotus flowers set away by rolling waves, and with lotuses bent down by the magnificent weight of their own filaments, where copses are adorned by stately trees bowed down by the weight of their own flowers, by the sound of swarms of bees emboldened by intoxication, and by perpetually strolling ladies of the town, where the excessively white and extremely high houses populated by tender women practically resemble, with their fluttering pennants, banks of white clouds coloured by steeals of lightning, while other [houses] with their long roof vaults and their balconies appear to be likenesses of the rugged peaks of Kailasa, they are clamourous with the sound of [music/Gandharvas], [paintings are laid down [on their walls]/ wondours deeds are performed [on them]; and they are beautified by [groves of billowing plantains/woods where the deer are skittish], where houses immaculate as the rays of the full moon are decorated with rows of pavilions and seem to have burst up splitting the earth, looking like rows of heavenly chariots (vimana), [this city] which, being enclosed by a pair of lovely rivers with wiggling waves, appears like the body of [the god of] love embraced in privacy by [his wives] Priti and Rati who are well endowed with breats, which, like the sky with the shining hosts of planets, is glitter with Brahmins possessed of truthfulness, patience, self-control, tranquility, vows, purity, steadfatness, recitation, comportment, disciples, stability and intelligence, who are storehouse of scholarship and ascetic power (tapas), yet free from conceit.”2

The first historical reference to Dashapura is found in the Nasik cave inscription of Ushavadata, son-in-law of the Nahapana (119-124 CE), a Western Kshatrapa king. The inscription tells king Nahapana constructed shelters of quadrangular rest-houses at Dashapura.3 It suggests that Mandsaur was under the Western Kshatrapas during the first half of the second century CE. Nahapana was defeated by the Satavahana king Gautamiputra Satakarni as the Nasik cave inscription of his mother Gautami Balasri4 mentions Satakarni was ruling over Araka-Avanti, the region Mandsaur would be part of. The dates of Gautamiputra Satakarni are contestable, however, it is generally believed that this event would have happened in 124 CE. The Western Khastrapas soon regained control of the Arakavanti region from the Satavahanas, as the Junagadh rock inscription of Rudradaman I (130-150 CE) mentions he was ruling over the eastern and western Akaravanti.5 This inscription is not dated however the event mentioned in the inscription happened in the 72nd year of the era used by the Western Kshatraps, i.e. Saka era, placing the inscription in about 151-152 CE.

The Western Kshatraps were finally uprooted by Chandragupta II (376-415 CE). This event cannot be precisely dated however it can be safely placed during the last decade of the fourth century CE. A reference to Dashapura in Kalidasa’s Meghaduta suggests that the city had acquired fame during the Gupta period. The cloud messenger sent by Kalidasa encounters the city of Dashapura on his way from Ujjain to Thanesar. Mallinatha, the commentator on Meghaduta, tells Dashapura was the city of Rantideva. H H Wilson, who translated Meghaduta into English, translates the relevant verses as below:

“The streamlet traversed, to the eager sight<
Of Dasapura’s fair impart delight;
Welcomed with the looks that sparkling eyes below,
Whose arching brows like graceful creepers glow,
Whose upturned lashes to thy lofty way
The pearly ball and pupil dark display;
Such contrast as the lovely Kunda shows,
When the black bee sits pleased amidst her snows.”6

During the reign of the Western Kshatrapas and the Guptas, the Malava region was ruled by a feudatory dynasty. We find two different dynasties ruling this region, both calling themselves “Aulikaras”. Though both called themselves by the same dynastic appellation, the relationship between them is unclear. The first Aulikara dynasty, founded by Jayaverma, was ruling over Mandsaur and a portion of Rajasthan (Jhalawar district) during the Western Kshtrapa occupation. It appears that they supported the cause of Chandragupta II against the Western Kshatrapas and in return gained the territory of Mandsaur after the extermination of the Western Kshtrapas. The earliest inscription of this first Aulikara dynasty, dated 404 CE and belonging to King Naravarma, is found in Mandsaur. Naravarma was the grandson of Jayavarma. His grandson, Bandhuvarma, was a feudatory under Kumaragupta I and a Surya temple was constructed by a silk weaver guild during his reign as mentioned in an inscription found at Mandsaur. The genealogy of this dynasty starts with Jayavarma and continues with Simhavarma, Naravarma, Visvavarma, Bandhuvarma, and Prabhakaravarma. This first Aulikara dynasty ended after Prabhakaravarma whose last known inscription is dated 467 CE.

After Prabhakaravarma, a feudatory line of Manavayani kings ruled over Mandsaur. Only two inscriptions, both belonging to a king named Gauri, of this branch have been found so far. His Choti Sadri inscription is dated 491 CE and traces his lineage from five generations without mention of any overlord. His Mandsaur inscription mentions king Adityavardhana as his overlord. The identification of Adityavardhana and his relationship with Gauri is problematic. The name Adityavardhana ends with vardhana as that of many other kings of the second Aulikara line, and it is, therefore, suggested that Adityavardhana may belong to this second Aulikara line.7 A few scholars have opined that Adityavardhana was another name for Gauri. Bakker tells that identification of Gauri with Adityavardhana is nearly impossible and the obvious explanation is that Adityavardhana had conquered the region and Gauri thus became his feudatory. Equating Aditya with Prakasha, as both mean light, Bakker takes Adityavardhana as another name for Toramana as the latter had been equated with Prakashaditya. Thus, he tells the Hunas were ruling over Mandsaur, maybe for a brief period and this is the reason that the early rulers of the Second Aulikara line mention the defeat of Hunas in their hands.8

While the first Aulikara dynasty was a feudatory under the Guptas, however, the second Aulikara dynasty was an independent unit as evident from the Rishtal inscription.9 This dynasty was founded by Dharmavardhana who was told to be a symbol of the entire Aulikara line. The genealogy of this line of rulers starts with Dharmavardhana and continues with Jayavardhana, Ajitavardhana, Vibhishanavardhana, Rajyavardhana, Prakashavardhana, and Yashodharman. The Rishtal inscription tells Bhagvadosha at the command of King Prakashavardhana constructed a temple at Dashapura, as a symbol of Bharatavarsha, and named it Prakasheshvara. He also constructed a temple of Brahma in the same city. The inscription also mentions Prakashavardhana defeated the Huna king Toramana (493-515 CE). However, the threat from the Hunas was not permanently ceased and we find mention of another war with the Hunas during the successor of Prakashavardhana. The epoch of the second Aulikaras came during the reign of king Yashodharman. In his Mandsaur pillar inscription, he is stated to have defeated the Huna king Mihirakula and is credited to have expelled the Hunas beyond the boundaries of the country. He is told to have ruled over the regions that were not even ruled by the Guptas and the Hunas after conquering regions from the Lauhitya (Brahmaputra) River to Mount Mahendra and from the Himalayas to the Western Ocean.10 Even after keeping an iota of his grandiose claims, he would have ruled a considerable portion of northern India. As evident from the Rishtal inscription, he would have inherited a vast kingdom from his father Prakashavardhana, and considerably extended it with his conquests. The relationship between Prakashavardhana and  Yashodharman is not very clear, however, as the viceroys of both the kings were of the same family, and the separation of about seventeen years in their inscriptions suggests that Yashodharman was a successor of Prakashavardhana, most probably as his son.

The history of Mandsaur takes a different turn after the eclipse of the second Aulikara line. The city lost its prime as new trade and cultural centers popped up with the rise of new dynasties, i.e. Sthaneshwar,  Kanyakubja, etc. Varahamihira, a sixth-century CE astrologer, who lived in Ujjain mentions Dashapura as a region south of Bharatavarsha.11 As he mentions Ujjain and Madhyamika (present Nagari, Rajasthan) were situated in the center of Bharatavarsha and Mandsaur lying in the north of Ujjain and south of Madhyamika therefore it is not very clear if the Dashapura of Varahamihira is the present Mandsaur or some other region south of Ujjain. Dashapura also finds mention in Kadambari, a seventh-century CE work of Banabhatta.12 Sometime during the early decades of the fourteenth century CE, Alauddin Khalji attacked and ravaged the old city and constructed a fort. In limited excavations carried out by M B Garde, he concludes as in all these excavations only a few lower courses of walls and floors of buildings were found to survive, and their superstructures and debris totally disappeared, it appears that these monuments have not died a natural death but were thoroughly exploited for building material when the fort was constructed. The masonry of the fort amply bears out this surmise.13 After the fall of Yashodharman, the Malava region soon came under the Kalachuris and followed the fate of the Kalachuri line of rules with their rise and fall.

Reassembled Pillar at its original location
Second pillar lying over the platform
A part of the second pillar at its original location

Sondhni Pillars – These pillars were discovered by Arthur Sulivan in 1879 at Sondhini, about 4 km southwest of Mandsaur, now this area lies within the city limits of Mandsaur. Sulivan delivered a report and an eye copy of the inscription to Alexander Cunningham. Fleet visited the site in 1885 and found the primary pillar was lying partly buried with its head to the north, the bell capital and the lion abacus were lying nearby, along with an identical but more badly broken second pillar carrying an identical inscription as of the first pillar. In the trial excavations in 1922-23, Garde found the original foundations of the pillars at a depth of only 1.5 feet below the ground level suggesting the pillars were lying at their original site. A double-faced human head was also discovered and Garde proposes that it acted as the crowing member of the pillar similar to the crowing member of two addorsed images of Garuda at Eran. The shaft of one pillar was broken into two pieces, both pieces survived intact. The shaft of the other pillar was broken into a number of pieces some of which were missing. Two capitals and two abacuses were lying separately near the pillars.14 Garde constructed a masonry platform and kept all the pieces over it. Two dvarapala sculptures were also put on this platform.15 The total height of each pillar is 13.5 meters excluding the crowing member.16 One pillar has been reassembled with its original parts and it now stands in its full glory without its crowning member. The other pillar cannot be reassembled as a few pieces are missing and it still lies on the ground neatly placed over a platform.

Lotus Capital
Lion Abacus
Holes above the abacus to hold crowing member

The lotus capital above the shaft has a twisted band or garland at its top. A square abacus is placed above the lotus capital and each face of this abacus is decorated with addorsed lions, the tongues of the lions dangle pretty long. Between these lions is placed a human grotesque face with animal-like ears and a dangling tongue. The top surface of this square abacus has eight holes arranged in a circle around the central round. This suggests that there was once a sculpture or an image on the top of the pillar. Garde tells the discovery of a human face placed back-to-back during his trial excavations in 1922-23 and he suggests that it was the crowing member of the pillars as a similar back-to-back image is present on the Eran pillar of Budhagupta. Cecil suggests that there was once a Nandi on top as the inscription invokes Shiva and his bull capital.17 As the trial excavations of Garde have revealed a brick temple dedicated to Shiva at the site, it is very probable that the pillars also acted as dhvaja-stambha for that temple and carried an image of Nandi on the top.

Sahastralinga under a tree

About 75 feet west of the pillars, the foundations of a brick temple were exposed during the trial excavations by Garde in 1922-23. A huge sahastralinga was also found in the same place and looking at its size and weight it can be said with certainty that this linga has not moved from elsewhere and was the main cult object enshrined in that brick temple. Garde suggests that the two dvarapalas that are at present installed near the pillars were probably part of this temple. As the dvarapalas have a third eye and a trishula (trident) emerges behind the attendant gana, suggesting their Shaivite character. The attendant gana may represent trishula-purusha in this case. The backside of the dvarapala panels is plain suggesting the sculptures were placed against a wall. As the temple and the pillars have the same ground level, Garde takes them as contemporary, belonging to the sixth century CE.

Cecil and Bisschop take up the case of Sodhini to explain three specific questions, what purpose did the inscribed monuments serve within the larger political landscape of Dasapura and the surrounding area, what other structures were located there, and how did they function as an architectural assemblage and finally why are there two seemingly identical columns bearing the same inscription at the same site.18 Their first objection is that Yashodharman’s inscription may suggest a universal sovereign, but these self-aggrandizing hyperbolic claims are better interpreted as rhetorical flourishes of the prashashti (eulogy) genre, rather than indications of historical reality. This, in general, applies to many inscriptions of this nature, and if we find some contradicting claims among inscriptions then only we say it is hyperbolic or rhetorical. However, Cecil and Bisschop do not explain why this inscription should be considered rhetoric or hyperbolic in its claims. They further tell that the Aulikara rulers were aided by a lineage of prominent merchants, who called themselves Naigamas and occupied hereditary positions as ministers and exerted some political power. Are the Aulikaras the only rulers who were supported by such ministers or merchant groups or the ministers under the other dynasties did not exert any political power? It is all obvious that a king is supported by a line of ministers and these officers carry some political power with them according to their roles and responsibilities. The relationship between the Aulikara rulers and Naigama merchants is to be taken at face value and it is very clear that the Naigamas were the ministers under the Aulikaras and were not the same in their social and political status as the latter.

The next argument is that the Aulikaras though were independent of the Guptas however was not isolated. They copied literary metaphors and used monumental forms such as columns for political use such as the expression of political ideology as done by the Guptas. Copying something that had been done by kings and rulers of the past is a very common and accepted practice in Indian history. We have cases when rulers put their inscriptions at places already having inscriptions of past kings, or constructed monuments in their territory copying what they saw during their visits or wars in foreign territories or specifically calling names or works of past kings in their inscriptions. Aulikaras were no different in this case.

Loose sculptures at the site

The next argument is that the Aulikaras used these idioms to promote Shaivism, the new state religion. Shiavism started gaining prominence among the rulers and elites of the sixth century CE as the invocation of Shiva and Shaiva ideology became part of a political idiom employed by the Aulikaras. While it is true that Shiavism gained importance after the fall of the Gupta empire, however, whether there is any connection between these two events is contestable. Also, Shaivism did not appear as a new religion out of nowhere, but it was a religion in continuity for ages. Though the Guptas were primarily Vaishnavas and many of their monuments reflect this Vaishnavite character, however, many Shaivite monuments were constructed during their times, Shaiva caves in the Udayagiri complex, Bhumara Shiva Temple, etc. Also, while the Guptas were Vaishnavas but their southern contemporaries, the Vakatakas were Shaivas. Cecil and Bisschop are right in stating the change of idiom when Yashodharman starts his description by praising Nandi as wild and destructive, running amok and terrorizing the demons. This fits well with the theme of the inscription where Yashodharman mentions his victory over the Hunas as well as ruling the regions that were even not ruled by the Hunas and the Guptas. Whether the Sondhini columns were designed to promote the state-sponsored Shaiva religion or not is contestable, it is very clear the columns were erected by Yashodharman to commemorate his victory and to declare himself as a sovereign ruler. As the columns do not speak about any state-sponsored monument etc., the conclusion only drawn on a few invocatory verses may lead to inappropriate results. Just looking at the mere columns, one fails to understand how the device could be used to promote a religion. As these columns stand near a Shiva temple, the foundations of which were excavated during 1922-23, the best-fit scenario is that these columns were erected in front of an existing temple serving the purpose of a banner as well as delivering a political message about the resounding victories of a sovereign.

Coming to the question of why two seemingly identical pillars, Cecil and Bisschop tell a number of interpretations are possible. One obvious explanation is that two were erected to maintain symmetry. Another ingenious interpretation from them is that the two pillars represent the two arms of the Earth raised up in testament to Yashodarma’s greatness as the inscription reads: “who has raised up this pillar here, spanning time until the end of the aeon, as if to measure up the realm above, as of to take tally of the conglomeration of the starts, as if to point the way to heaven on high for the reputation accumulated through his good deeds.” “[This pillar] appears like a lustrous arm of the earth lovingly raised high to engrave on the disc of the moon the superiority of Yasodharman’s virtues.”. Another interpretation is that these two pillars reflect the strong alliance between the houses of the Aulikaras and Naigama merchant ministers. Epigraphic support is available for the last interpretation, as a pillar carries an inscription, that early scholars read as “Sadharmah nirdoshah” however the authors read it as “bhadharmah nirdoshah”, translating “Bhadharma Nirdosha”. While Nirdosha was a Naigama minister under Yashodharman, the authors identify Bhadharma as a Shaiva ascetic belonging to the Pashupata line stating names beginning with bha or bhava are very common among Pashupatas. Bhadharma otherwise is known from no other contemporary record. With all due regards, while arguments and reasoning are good tools, however going to an extent where identifications are made based upon thin threads of similarities in names to support the overall narrative of fitting themes of Skandapurana, Pashupata as a militant religion, and the rise of Shaivism is contestable.

Khilchipura Torana fragment – This torana pillar, one upright of the two similar such pieces, was found in the 1922-23 excavations half-buried in the ground at Khilchipura. Its original foundations were found about 12 feet below the ground and were also found the foundations of a brick building at the same level. This pillar has been moved to the Mandsaur Museum. A fragment of another upright of this torana is now embedded in the Mandsaur Fort. The pillar is carved on all four sides, with two sides carrying various sculptures and two sides decorated with foliage and patterns.

There are eight sculptural panels in total, four on each side. The lowest panel in the front has Yamuna standing over a tortoise. The lowest panel on the opposite face has a dvarapala having a third eye suggesting his Shaivite nature. An attendant gana has a trishula emerging on top of his head, suggesting he represents trishula-purusha. The rest of the six panels show various mithuna (amorous) scenes having a male, a female, and a dwarf. This is an innovation as generally mithuna scenes only have a male and a female, the insertion of a dwarf here brings out some funny notes during the amorous course.

Rudra-Bhaskar in the Mandsaur region

Development of Rudra-Bhaskar iconography – Two sculptures of Rudra-Bhaskar have been discovered in the Mandsaur region, one housed in the museum at Mandsaur and another in the State Museum, Bhopal. We do not have many such sculptures discovered in India, except a few have been found at Konark. Mandsaur and Konark have been the famous centers of Surya worship. The Surya temple at Mandsaur was constructed in the fifth century CE while the temple at Konark was a thirteenth-century CE construction. Though the present temple at Konark was a late construction however Konark was known as a famous arka-kshetra (region dedicated to Surya) in all traditional literature of Odisha. As Rudra-Bhaskar icons are only found in these two regions, it is evident that they would have played an important role in the development of its iconography. As the earliest icon is from Mandsaur therefore the cultural and political situation of this region would have a greater impact on this development. Though the Surya temple at Mandsaur was a celebrated temple however it soon lost its importance as no further mention is made in any later inscriptions. One reason behind it would be the exponential rise of Shiavism as Shiva was the tutelary deity of Mihirakula as well as the Aulikara rulers. To continue the existing Surya cult and to accommodate the rising Shaiva influence, a need would have arisen for a combined icon, and the same was made possible by the Rudra-Bhaskar icon. Surya takes the central place in the iconography as he is shown wearing high boots and seated over his seven-horse chariot. He is provided with two additional arms to carry Shaiva emblems, trishula (trident), and a snake. In his other two hands, he holds two lotuses, the regular feature of Surya iconography.

Inscription of Naravarman, now in the Gujari Mahal Museum, Gwalior

Inscriptions: 

  1. Mandsaur inscription of the time of Naravarman19 – This inscription is engraved over a stone broken into at least three fragments. Only two fragments have been found, the first fragment was found in 1912 and the second in 1922-23. The fragments are now stored in the Gujari Mahal Museum at Gwalior. The script is the rounded variety of Malava late Brahmi and the language is Sanskrit. The object of the inscription is lost however it appears it was a commemoration of the foundation of a public building, most probably a temple to Krishna. The inscription starts with a salutation to Purusha, a thousand-headed person, who slumbers in water on a couch that is the Four Oceans. It then mentions the data, year 461 of the Krta-Malava era, equivalent to 404-405 CE. The inscription refers to the reigning king Naravarman, son of Simhavarman, and the grandson of Jayavarman. It next describes the donor, whose name has been lost, stating he had recognized the transitory nature of the material world and sought refuge with Vasudeva Krishna. The donor was the son of Varnavrddhi and the grandson of Jaya. His mother was Jayamitra, the daughter of Balasura. The second fragment mentions a great and famous city known as pamcha-dvig, and it may be equated with Dashapura (five twice), the present Mandsaur. The last extent line mentions something inhabited by Krishna and it may be a temple dedicated to Krishna.
  2. Mandsaur inscription of Dattabhata20 – It was discovered in 1923 when it was built into the inner face of the east wall of the medieval fort at Mandsaur. It is now housed in the Gujari Mahal Museum at Gwalior. It is written in the rounded variety of the Malava Brahmi script and in the Sanskrit language. The object of the inscription is the dedication of a stupa accompanied by a well, a water dispensary, and a boarding house for wayfarers or pilgrims. It begins with an invocation to Sugata (Buddha). It next describes the Gupta king Chandragupta II. The reigning king was Govindagupta, a progeny of Chandragupta II. It next tells Vayuralkshita as the ever-victorious general of Govindagupta. From a princess of a northern dynasty, he begot Dattabhata. King Prabhakara appointed Dattabhata as his general. King Prabhakara is praised as a forest fire burning up trees that are enemies of the Gupta dynasty, suggesting his allegiance to the Gupta ruler. Dattabhata constructed a well out of gratitude toward his departed parents. The well was accompanied by a stupa, water dispensary, and a rest-house. The date is in the year 524 in the Krta-Malava era, equivalent to 467-468 CE. All the buildings inaugurated in the inscription were said to be on the grounds of the Lokottara-vihara.
  3. Mandsaur inscription of the silk weavers21 – The inscription was discovered by the agents of J H Fleet in 1884 and it was built into the wall on the right-hand halfway down a small flight of steps leading to the river in front of the medieval period temple of the god Mahadeva at the Mahadeva-ghat, which is on the south bank of the river, just opposite the fort. It is now housed in the Gujari Mahal Museum in Gwalior. It is written in the rounded variety of the Malava Brahmi script and in the Sanskrit language. The inscription opens with the auspicious word Siddham and goes on to praise Surya for his blessings. It then mentions a group of men who originally hailed from the country of Lata and were of the silk-weaver community, and being charmed by the land and rulers of Dasapura, migrated here with their families. It then describes the city of Dasapura. It then tells these craftsmen from Lata lived happily in the city, cherished like sons by the local rulers. It mentions that Gupta king Kumaragupta was ruling when the temple was founded and king Vishvavarman was ruling over Mandsaur. It then introduces his son Bandhuvarman, the latter was reigning over Mandsaur when the temple was restored. During the reign of Bandhuvarman, the silk-weaver guild funded the construction of a Sun temple. The temple is praised as a turban jewel of the western city. The temple was originally constructed in the year 493 of the Malava era, equivalent to 436 CE. The temple was restored in the year 529 of the Malava era, equivalent to 473 CE, and at that time this inscription was engraved. It was composed by Vatsabhatti.
  4. Mandsaur fragmentary inscription of Gauri22 – The inscription starts with an invocation to Vishnu. It next introduces a king named Adityavardhana reigning at Dasapura. It next introduces the family of Gauri, starting with Yashogupta, the son of Rashtravardhana. Yashogupta’s son was Maharaja Gauri, belonging to the manava-gotra. It then introduced his mother, Harisure, and his maternal grandfather whose name is lost. Then it tells Gauri excavated a tank (jalashaya) in the neighborhood of the city. The inscription is not dated, however, it should not be far removed from 491 CE, the date mentioned in the other dated inscription of Gauri.
  5. Mandsaur inscription of Nirdosa23 – This inscription is engraved on a stone slab that at a later time is repurposed for a  hero stone. The inscription begins with an invocation to Pinakin (Shiva) and commemorates the construction of a well by Nirdosa, a minister of Yashodharman, in memory of his departed uncle Abhayadatta who was also a minister under the same king. The inscription also mentions king Vishnuvardhana, which appears as an assumed name of king Yashodharman. Next is described the family of Naigamas. The progenitor was Sashthidatta, a pious and wealthy man who served the ancestors of Yashodarman. His son was Varahadasa. Next, comes Ravikirti however his position in the family is not specified. He may be a son of Varahadasa, or a brother of his, or maybe another name of Varahadasa. The next verse mentions, probably Varahadasa or Ravikirti, has a wife named Bhanugupta and she bore three sons, Dosha, Abhayadatta, and the third is not mentioned.  Doshakumbha was the son of Dharmadosha (Dosha). The younger brother of Dharmadosha known as Daksha or Nirdosha, was the donor of the well and issuer of the inscription. The well was constructed in memory of Abhayadatta, the paternal uncle of the donor. The inscription is dated in the year 589 of the Malava era, equivalent to 532-533 CE. The inscription was engraved by Govinda.
  6. Sondhni Pillar inscription of Yashodarman24 – The inscription is written in nine lines, in the angular Malava script, and in the Sanskrit language. It is a prashashti (eulogy) of king Yashodarman. The inscription starts with an invocation to the bull standard of Shiva. It further tells that the earth found solace in the arms of Yashodharman after being harrowed by the unholy and brutish kings, similar to how it finds succor in the arms of Vishnu. In this decency-devastating age, many kings who were called sovereign have attached themselves to other kings of reprehensible conduct. Realms that were not controlled by the Guptas, nor came under the Hunas, Yashodarman controlled those realms after overpowering their rulers with his prowess. He robbed the vassals of their conceit by the abundant power of his arms, from the banks of the Brahmaputra to Mount Mahendra and to the Himalayas to the western ocean. Even Mihirakula, who never subjected his head except to Shiva, worshipped his feet with flowers from his turban. King Yashodharman erected this pillar here as if to point the way to heaven on high for the reputation accumulated through his good deeds. The inscription was composed by Vasula, son of Kakka. It was engraved by Govinda. The inscription is not dated however it may be fairly dated not very far from 533 CE.
  7. Sondhni Fragmentary Pillar inscription of Yashodharman25 – It is a duplicate copy of the above inscription. In addition, a shell-script inscription is also present on the pillar shaft, this inscription is undeciphered.
  8. Mandsaur fragmentary inscription of Kumaravarman26 – This inscription was found in 1978 near the southern gate of Mandsaur Fort and is now in the Yashodharman Museum in Mandsaur. Due to the fragmentary nature of the inscription, neither its purpose, its date, nor its issuer can be determined with any certainty. The inscription starts with a homage to Purushottama. It then mentions the dynasty of Kumaravarman, and a mention of Virasoma, Bhaskaravarman is made in the genealogy. A mention of a valiant, Aulikara is also made, who may either be from Kumaravarman’s dynasty or a vassal under Bhaskaravarman or his successor. Then comes the mention of Kumaravarman and his virtues and reign. It mentions Kumaravarman’s victory over the son of Krishna. Who this son of Krishna maybe is not clear, he may be a son of the Kalachuri king Krishnaraja. The inscription was composed by Lakshmanagupta, the son of Bhartr-ananta out of love for the king. The inscription may be dated to the first quarter of the seventh century CE on paleographic studies.
  9. Mandsaur seal of Prakashadharman27 – V S Wakankar discovered this seal in an excavation in 1978. Balogh reports that he was not able to locate this seal and it may be at the Wakankar Shodh Samsthan however the latter does not have any catalog of items and records. Balogh got a sketch of the seal from a resident of Mandsaur and published the same. The seal reads Prakashadharman.
  10. Sondhni Pillar graffiti28 – two words are engraved along one of the upper edges of the lion abacus of the incompletely preserved pillar at Sondhni. The characters belong to the 5th or 6th century CE. The first character is very illegible and therefore the reading is varied. The latest acceptance among scholars, Cecil and Balogh, is that it reads “bhadharmmah nirdosha”. Bhadharmmah may be a Pasupata initiatory name, possibly an acharya who collaborated with Nirdosha in setting up the pillar.

1 Fleet, J F (1970). Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum Vol. III – Inscriptions of the Early Gupta Kings and their Successors. Indological Book House. Varanasi. p. 79
2 Balogh, Daniel (2019). Inscriptions of the Aulikaras and Their Associates. De Gruyter. Berlin. ISBN 978-3-11-064472-2. pp. 101-102
3 Epigraphia Indica, Vol. VIII. pp. 78-81
4 Epigraphia Indica, Vol. VIII. pp. 60-65
5 Epigraphia Indica, Vol. VIII. pp. 36-49
6 Wilson, H H (1843). The Megha Duta or Cloud Messanger. Richard Watts. London. p. 46
7 Solomon, Richard (1989). New Inscriptional Evidence for the History of the Aulikaras of Mandsor published in the Indo-Iranian Journal, vol. 32, No. 1. p. 21
8 Bakker, Hans T (2017). Monuments of Hope, Gloom, and Glory – 24th J. Gonda Lecture 2016. Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. ISBN 978-90-6984-715-3. p. 13
9 Solomon, Richard (1989). New Inscriptional Evidence for the History of the Aulikaras of Mandsor published in the Indo-Iranian Journal, vol. 32, No. 1. p. 3-9
10 Solomon, Richard (1989). New Inscriptional Evidence for the History of the Aulikaras of Mandsor published in the Indo-Iranian Journal, vol. 32, No. 1. p. 11
11 Sastri, V Subrahmanya (1946). Varahamihira’s Brihat Samhita. V B Soobiah & Sons. Bangalore. p. 162
12 Ayyar, Sulochana (1987). Costumes and Ornaments as depicted in the Sculptures of Gwalior Museum. Mittal Publications. Delhi. ISBN 8170990025. p. 18
13 Annual Report of the Archaeological Survey of India, 1922-23. p. 186
14 Annual Report of the Archaeological Survey of India, 1922-23. p. 186
15 Annual Report of the Archaeological Department of Gwalior State for Samvat 1982, Year 1925-26. p. 5
16 Bakker, Hans T (2017). Monuments of Hope, Gloom, and Glory – 24th J. Gonda Lecture 2016. Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. ISBN 978-90-6984-715-3. p. 22
17 Cecil & Bisschop (2019). Columns in Context: Venerable Monuments and Landscapes of Memory in Early India published in the History of Religions, Vol. 58, Number 4. p. 389
18 Cecil & Bisschop (2021). Idiom and Innovation in the Gupta Period: Revisiting Eran and Sondhini published in The Indian Economic and Social History Review, Vol. 58, Part 1. p. 54
19 Balogh, Daniel (2019). Inscriptions of the Aulikaras and Their Associates. De Gruyter. Berlin. ISBN 978-3-11-064472-2. pp. 35-45
20 Balogh, Daniel (2019). Inscriptions of the Aulikaras and Their Associates. De Gruyter. Berlin. ISBN 978-3-11-064472-2. pp. 76-86
21 Balogh, Daniel (2019). Inscriptions of the Aulikaras and Their Associates. De Gruyter. Berlin. ISBN 978-3-11-064472-2. pp. 87-109
22 Balogh, Daniel (2019). Inscriptions of the Aulikaras and Their Associates. De Gruyter. Berlin. ISBN 978-3-11-064472-2. pp. 124-131
23 Balogh, Daniel (2019). Inscriptions of the Aulikaras and Their Associates. De Gruyter. Berlin. ISBN 978-3-11-064472-2. pp. 153-174
24 Balogh, Daniel (2019). Inscriptions of the Aulikaras and Their Associates. De Gruyter. Berlin. ISBN 978-3-11-064472-2. pp. 175-187
25 Balogh, Daniel (2019). Inscriptions of the Aulikaras and Their Associates. De Gruyter. Berlin. ISBN 978-3-11-064472-2. pp. 188-191
26 Balogh, Daniel (2019). Inscriptions of the Aulikaras and Their Associates. De Gruyter. Berlin. ISBN 978-3-11-064472-2. pp. 201-228
27 Balogh, Daniel (2019). Inscriptions of the Aulikaras and Their Associates. De Gruyter. Berlin. ISBN 978-3-11-064472-2. pp. 235-236
28 Balogh, Daniel (2019). Inscriptions of the Aulikaras and Their Associates. De Gruyter. Berlin. ISBN 978-3-11-064472-2. pp. 236-237
29 Balogh, Daniel (2019). Inscriptions of the Aulikaras and Their Associates. De Gruyter. Berlin. ISBN 978-3-11-064472-2.

Acknowledgment: Some of the photos above are in CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain from the collection released by the Tapesh Yadav Foundation for Indian Heritage. Some of the photos above are in CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain from the collection released by Tapesh Yadav Foundation for Indian Heritage.